require conveyors that work quickly,
precisely, safely, and cleanly. You
don’t have to settle for a conveyor
Size and Speed
It is possible to find high-performing
conveyors that are well-suited to lightweight products, precision applications,
and the flexible layouts often found in
If your product is less than an inch
wide, you don’t need a belt that is
10 times that. A quality manufacturer
should be able of offer conveyors
in small widths that can still run at
If your line includes accumulation,
make sure the manufacturer you’re
considering can provide a biflow
conveyor scaled for smaller products.
Most product accumulation conveyors
are scaled for standard food and beverage size containers, meaning that
smaller pill bottles or packs will tend
to tip and jam more.
In pharmaceutical manufacturing,
transfers from one conveyor to the
next is key. Products smaller than an
inch (which is most, if not all, pharma
products) need a roller diameter that is
less than an inch, otherwise the product will fall between the conveyors.
Typical conveyors usually have a
roller diameter of 32 mm or larger.
But it is possible to find conveyors
with end rollers as small as 16 mm,
and even smaller nose bars, that can
transfer products of less than an inch
Without smaller rollers, one way
around this problem is a waterfall
transfer, where the roller of one
conveyor is placed over the roller of
another and parts fall from one to the
other. But waterfall transfers do not
maintain orientation, and product can
still be damaged in the fall.
Another option is side transfer,
where the product is transferred off
the side of one conveyor to another
parallel conveyor. However, this is only
possible if the bearing housings on the
conveyors are inside, instead of out-
side, the frame, so that the belts can
be positioned flush with one another.
Having a flat, true belt is important
for applications such as filling and
labeling. But this is especially hard to
achieve with lightweight products for
several reasons. Lightweight pharmaceuticals can’t force the conveyor belt
flat. Plus, the belting used on small
end rollers needs to be very thin, and
thin belts tend to curl when placed
Typical conveyors need larger
bearings and rollers to run under the
high tension required to drive the belt.
Some smaller conveyors employ pinch
drive designs that forces the conveyor
belt against the drive roller, allows it to
run with almost no tension.
Lighter products also are difficult
to keep in place on a belt, making
precise spacing and orientation a challenge. Vacuum belting can help hold
down light items like blister packs, and
can be customized depending on the
size and shape of your product.
Sanitation and Safety
Asking a few questions about your
conveyor system requirements also
can help you maintain safety and sanitation standards. Are the conveyors
or belting you’re considering able to
withstand wipe-downs and comply
with other clean room requirements?
Look for stainless steel or anodized
aluminum frames, enclosed drives,
and urethane belts.
What are your inspection and
tracking needs? Are you required
to have lockable reject bins as part
of your rejection system? Does
your sanitary conveyor need to be
compatible with metal detectors
or x-ray units? Do you need photo
eyes or servo drive kits to assist in
inspection, and accurate positioning
for date coding and labeling?
Much more than moving product from
point A to point B, conveyors can be a
crucial part of your production process. More advanced setups can even
integrate your conveyors with system
controls and networks for real time
performance and tracking information.
Size, speed, sanitation—with so many
variables, there is a lot to consider. A
reputable conveyor manufacturer will
have already considered them. Going
with an outside vendor, instead of
trying to adapt more standard conveyors or building in-house, will save you
a lot of frustration and stop you from
having to reinvent the wheel (or roller,
in this case). Any extra up-front cost will
be made up by less down time, easier
maintenance and standard replacement
parts, not to mention the peace of
mind of being backed by a manufacturer’s warranty and service experts.
About the Author
Mike Hosch is the Vice
President of Industrial
Business for Dorner
based in Hartland, WI.
Dorner designs, manufactures, and distributes high-quality
conveyors and related equipment.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 18, 2018 | INTERPHEX 2018 | PHARMPRO.COM | 15
Accumulation, high speed bottle filling and blister
packaging, labeling, and tracking—all require conveyors
that work quickly, precisely, safely, and cleanly.